Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena won the 2008 Acropolis Rally of Greece this afternoon to move into the lead of the Drivers’ World Championship.
The Total-Citroen team pair had no problems through the last day of the event, and crossed the finish ramp in Athens with an overall lead of 1min 9sec.
Today’s victory is Loeb’s second on the Greek round of the WRC series – which he last won in 2005 – and his fifth from the seven rallies of the season so far. Another maximum score in the drivers’ contest moves Loeb one point ahead of the pre-rally leader Mikko Hirvonen, and closer to his goal of a fifth consecutive World Title.
“It was a tough and long weekend but in the circumstances it was almost a perfect rally,” said Loeb. “It’s been hard for all of us driving in such rough conditions. It wasn’t just a question of going fast; instead it was all about knowing where to push and where to slow down. But we had a good speed overall and I’m very happy with the feeling of my C4. In the past we’re struggled to catch the Fords on this rally, but not this year.”
Petter Solberg of the Subaru World Rally Team finished second – his best result since Rally Portugal in 2007 – and was delighted with the pace of his new Impreza World Rally Car on its competitive debut. “I’m almost overwhelmed,” said Solberg. “It’s been perfect – we’ve had no problems all rally. The guys in the team did a fantastic job to get the car ready for this event and now I can say that the future looks great. The new car has shown it has the necessary pace and there’s a lot more to come. Brilliant!”
Third place went to Mikko Hirvonen of the BP-Ford Abu-Dhabi World Rally Team. Despite slipping to second in the drivers’ contest, The Ford Focus RS driver said the result was better than he though possible on Saturday. “This rally was definitely the hardest I’ve ever done,” said Hirvonen. “I had so many problems early on that I’m very happy to be third. Okay, I’m disappointed to have lost the lead of the Championship, but to be only one point behind halfway through the season is not so bad.”
Estonian Urmo Aava was fourth in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC, and delighted to get the best WRC result of his career. “This has been the best rally of my life,” said Aava. “I have taken two stage wins and lots of third and fourth fastest times. Fourth place is the best I though I could take from here. Next I want to get a third, then maybe a second – you never know.”
Dani Sordo was fifth in the second Total-Citroen C4. The Spaniard said he was satisfied – despite losing the lead on the second day. “I’m happy with fifth because it didn’t look likely yesterday,” said Sordo. “It’s important for Citroen in the manufacturers’ championship. I have a good feeling in the car now, and I’m feeling confident ahead of the next rally in Turkey.”
Matthew Wilson of the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team was sixth and collected three drivers’ points. “After a tough first day I’m glad to have finished in the points,” he said. “I really had to use my head here; the conditions today were so rough they were almost unbelievable. From what I’ve heard this was just like the Acropolis was years ago – a real car breaker.”
The man who led the rally on the opening day, Jari-Matti Latvala, finished seventh after a series of problems on Saturday’s stages. “Everything happened to me on this rally,” said Latvala. “But Ford is still leading the Manufacturers’ championship so I’m happy about that. The speed has actually been okay, but a few little things haven’t worked out for us. I want a clean run in Turkey.”
Henning Solberg ended eighth in another Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus. The Norwegian had started the day third, but was dogged by an engine problem which eventually dropped him out of podium contention. “It was a big disappointment but what can you do?” said Solberg. “This is part of the rally sometimes. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get on the podium with my brother but I’m going to do better next time.”
Toni Gardemeister was ninth in the first of the Suzuki World Rally Team cars. The Finn saying he was pleased to have got his SX4 WRC to the end. “Getting to the finish on this rally is actually a very promising result,” he said. “We got here without too many problems – just a cracked turbo wastegate yesterday – so I’m quite happy.”
Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach rounded out the top ten in the second of the PH-Sport run Citroen C4 WRC’s. “What can I say; it’s been one of those weekends,” said a disappointed Rautenbach. “We set some good times, but I’ll be glad to get to the next event in Turkey. I didn’t very feel well before this rally so I plan to rest up, get strong and come back fighting